ASIA/LEBANON - "Like a mustard seed". The Catholic Churches in the Middle East indicate the points of orientation of their "synodal path"

Friday, 17 February 2023 middle east   oriental churches   local churches   synodality   synod of bishops   mission  

Harissa (Agenzia Fides) - Catholic communities in the Middle East are called to bear witness to "fellowship and hope in suffering", to represent the face of a Church "as humble as a 'mustard seed', which grows in the precariousness of its condition and must escape the pressures that drive so many of her sons and daughters to leave their lands. This is the evocative image expressed in the Closing Statement of the Continental Synodal Assembly of Catholic Churches in the Middle East, which has just concluded in Harissa, Lebanon.
From February 13 to 17, the Assembly brought together representatives of the 7 Catholic Churches present in the Middle East at the Bethania Center: Patriarchs, Bishops, priests, men and women religious, lay people from Egypt, Syria, Jordan, the Holy Land, Iraq, Lebanon and the Gulf States prayed, worked and reflected together on what had emerged during the first consultations that took place within the individual local Churches in the different Countries. A meeting - reads the beginning of the closing statement, sent to Fides - which took place "in difficult circumstances for our region", in particular "due to the repercussions of the devastating earthquake that struck our brothers in Syria and Turkey". For this reason "the participants in the Assembly stopped at this painful and heartbreaking event, and raised daily prayers for the victims, wounded and displaced in the affected areas".
The assembly held in Harissa represented a key moment in the so-called "continental stage" of the journey of the Catholic Churches in the Middle East towards the Synod which will open in Rome in October 2023, dedicated to the theme "For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission".
In the closing statement of the Assembly held in Harissa, the fundamental traits of the common identity and of the ecclesial mission to be rediscovered through the synodal path were condensed into 13 points, starting from the observation - reaffirmed in the first of the 13 summary points - that "Synodalism is a core of the heritage of our Eastern Churches".
The twelve points of the concluding statement reaffirm, among other things, that unity in the diversity of the various ecclesial traditions is a specific characteristic of the mission of the Churches in the regions of the Middle East and the Gulf. The representatives of the Catholic Churches in the Middle East recall the urgency of placing the talents of lay people, men and women, in the service of the Body of Christ, of paying attention to the capabilities and expectations of young people "for a renewed Church", and to reaffirm "the importance of the role and mission of women in the Church". The statement released at the end of the Assembly reiterates that "The liturgy is our life", calling for a "liturgical renewal that is compatible with the aspirations of our youth", without distorting the liturgical traditions of the individual ecclesial communities. The statement also recalls the urgency of "a creative and renewed ecumenism". In the context of the Middle Eastern, due to a given condition, the Catholic Church is called to openness in a spirit of fraternity and hope to other communities of faith, "by listening, dialogue, and togetherness, living together cooperation and mutual respect".
Finally, each particular Church is called to preserve and cultivate within it the synodal dynamics experienced during the days of the Harissa Assembly. "The time of holy fasting, which begins next Monday, February 20, suggests the final statement of the Assembly, "is the acceptable and ddistinguished time to hear what the Spirit says to our Churches as we listen to the word of God, pray and repent, and do acts of love and mercy towards our brothers and sisters in their material, spiritual and moral needs, through the intercession of Our Lady of Lebanon, Mother of the Church and Queen of the Apostles". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 17/2/2023)

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